SALIDA — The feeling around the Modesto Christian campus, as one might expect, is that the Crusaders will triumph over Santa Barbara on Friday at the Division 3 girls basketball state championship game in Sacramento.
And Modesto Christian students are eager to be part of what they believe will be a historic victory.
Ive pulled together two rooter buses for the trip, said student government President Juan Castillo, a senior. One for the high school, and one for the middle and elementary schools.
Here at Modesto Christian, we all love our basketball.
And whats not to love?
The boys and girls programs at Modesto Christian are as successful as any combo in the state.
Modesto Christian girls coach Robb Spencer, in 13 seasons as head coach, is 344-91 (.791 winning percentage), with a 171-2 record in league games, 13 league titles, six section banners and, now, three Northern California regional championships.
The boys program has fared even better, winning 18 league titles in the past 18 years never once losing a league game with 16 section titles, four NorCal regionals and two state championships.
But with the boys falling to power Bishop ODowd (Oakland) last week in the NorCal semifinals, the girls have the spotlight all to themselves.
Sure, the boys would like to be playing still, but theyre backing the girls all the way.
Im really happy for them, said Anthony Townes, a 6-foot-6-inch junior forward. Its good to see them still in it; Im going to be there to cheer them on.
Most of the student population Modesto Christian has an enrollment of a little less than 200 plans to be at Sleep Train Arena for the 2 p.m. contest.
Im super-pumped for this game, said senior Alexa Nelson. Weve pretty much canceled all other events at the school except for the art program; they have a field trip that day.
Modesto Christian athletic director Greg Pearce was on the phone most of the morning Tuesday, talking with athletic directors from other schools in the Trans-Valley League to reschedule baseball, softball, boys tennis and girls soccer games slated for Friday.
Theyve been very accommodating, he said.
The school plans a rally for 8:45 a.m. Friday to send off the team, which will hold a shootaround at the gym that morning, then stop for breakfast somewhere on the road.
Its amazing just how everyone at school has been reacting, said freshman Meagan Warwick, who has started the last two games in place of the injured Ashley Lucas. We feel like everyone is supporting us now.
Senior Robert Garcia is one of those students lending his support. Im pretty excited, said Garcia. Theyve worked hard and come out on top the past few games.
The Crusaders (26-8) wouldnt be playing Santa Barbara (30-5) if not for a remarkable comeback against top-seeded Enterprise (Redding) in the NorCal final Saturday. Modesto Christian trailed by 17 points with only 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but fought back for an improbable 58-56 victory.
Coach Spencer has been to the state title game three times now, said junior Zack Schott. The chance for our girls to win a state title is cool, and its cool for Modesto Christian to get recognized.
Sophomore Jaylon McLendon, who plays on the Modesto Christian football and baseball teams, thinks that effort last week against Enterprise will carry over. What we showed the last few games says that our girls are coming to win, said McLendon. Theyll work as hard and as long as they have to get a win for this school.
Senior Breanne Harvey agrees, and may have summed it up for all Modesto Christian students when she said, Theyre ready to go out and kick some butt.